Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra arrested three members of a suspected right-wing Hindutva outfit – the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) -- and seized a huge quantity of explosives, including crude bombs.
According to police sources, Vaibhav Raut (40) and Sharad Kalaskar (25) were arrested on Thursday night from Bhandar Aali in Nallasopara West and their interrogation led to the arrest of Sudhanva Gondhalekar (39) from Pune. A court in Mumbai has now remanded the three men in ATS custody till August 18.
The social media account of Raut, who allegedly runs the "Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti", a little-known pro-cow protection outfit in Nallasopara, mentioned he was associated with the right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha. However, the group has denied he was its member.
ATS sources said the raid at Raut’s house and at a nearby shop owned by him led to the seizure of 20 crude bombs, two gelatine sticks, four electronic and 22 non-electronic detonators, 150 gm of explosive powder, two bottles labelled as 'poison', batteries, soldering equipment and a bomb circuit drawing. A manual that lists instructions to make bombs and another manual were also recovered from Kalaskar’s house, the police said.
The ATS has also questioned at least 16 people for their possible links to the three men arrested for allegedly planning to carry out blasts in the state, a police official said.
A Maharashtra Times report says, the trio was reportedly hatching a conspiracy to use these bombs in Pune, Satara, Nallasopara and Sholapur.
Conspiracy to Harass a Hindu Outfit Activist: HJS
In a statement, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) termed Raut's arrest as "Malegaon part II".
The Malegaon case centres around September 29, 2008 bomb explosion near Bhiku Chowk in the Muslim-dominated Malegaon town of Nashik district, which killed six people and injured 101 others.
“Vaibhav Raut is a daring cow protector. He was active through an organisation – Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti – dedicated to the protection of cows,” HJS state organiser Sunil Ghanvat said, adding, “He used to participate in the programmes and agitations organised through uniting Hindu organisations under the aegis of HJS.”
He, however, claimed that Raut had not participated in any of the programmes for the last few months.
He said incidents of needless harassment of activists of Hindu organisations to implicate them in false cases etc are not new anymore. This has been amply proved through Malegaon case and the arrest of many innocent seekers of Sanatan Sanstha.
“Considering the news being disseminated today, it has created doubt whether the arrest of Vaibhav Raut is an instance of Malegaon part II,” he said.
Raut’s lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar too alleged foul play. “They say FIR was registered at 2:30 am today (Friday), accused was arrested at 3:30 pm and raid was conducted last night around 8 pm, so how can they raid without FIR? There was no search warrant when they raided my client’s house,” Punalekar said.
Ban Sanatan Sanstha: Ashok Chavan
Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan, after the arrest of Vaibhav Raut, a member of the Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, along with two of his accomplices by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Maharashtra government of being soft on organisations like Sanatan Sanstha, which, according to him, should be banned.
Chavan said, “ATS had recovered 20 bombs and explosives for 50 more bombs. Vaibhav Raut and other 2-3 people from Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested. There is a big controversy behind this to polarise and break secular forces. We have been saying this since a long time that this organisation should be banned. But, somewhere the government is also soft on Sanatan Sanstha. The government should reveal what's their motive behind the same."
Earlier, Congress leader P Chidambaram also slammed Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra for the same.
He asked why the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP were not condemning those who are plotting and planning terror attacks. “Hindu, Muslim or any other religion, radicalism is radicalism. Terror is terror. There is no purpose in burying one's head in the sand,” he tweeted.
(With inputs from agencies)
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